PYEONGCHANG – The South Korean food manufacturer and retail giant Shinsegae will be offering Muslim athletes competing in next month’s Winter Olympics a chance to eat halal foot after earning a certificate from the Korea Muslim Federation for the cafeteria it will operate.
“We faced various difficulties in obtaining the certification because we had to be equipped with separated management systems in distribution, storage, cooking, and catering,” a Shinsegae Food official said, Korea Times reported.
The Korea Muslim Federation is a halal certification body recognized by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM).
For the effectiveness of this step, Shinsegae has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Korea Food Research Institute’s Food Standard Research Center.
Halal food refers to food products that are lawful according to Islamic Shari`ah law. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol and eating pork or other meats that aren’t slaughtered according to specific guidelines.
The Winter Games are scheduled for February 9 to 25 in PyeongChang, some 180 km east of the capital Seoul, and the adjacent sub-host cities of Gangneung and Jeongseon.
Shinsegae will provide meals for about 10,000 people in the Olympic venue, including athletes, administrators, media, and operations personnel at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“Although Muslim athletes don’t account for a large proportion of the total delegates, we are especially focusing on the halal food zone to pay respect to diverse culture and religions,” a Shinsegae official said, noting that Muslim athletes will make up only around 5% of the Olympic athletes.
The recent certification is expected to boost Shinsegae’s overseas expansion which has already started its presences in the Muslim Southeast Asian market with halal foods based on Korean traditional foods.
According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, the size of the global halal food market is expected to surpass $2 trillion in 2020.
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will welcome delegations from a record of 94 countries as well as diverse groups of tourists.
Out of these, athletes of 15 Muslim-majority nations will participate in this major winter sports event from Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Eritrea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kosova, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
The small Muslim community in South Korea is centered around the capital Seoul where there are a few mosques.
According to the Korea Muslim Federation, there are about 100,000 Muslims living in the country, both Koreans, and foreigners. They pray at no more than 20 mosques in the East Asian nation.